BACON: Could it be … racism?

When the conclusion is predetermined, any data will do

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One of the ways progressives keep the flames of resentment among racial minorities burning white hot is to highlight purported discrimination in every aspect of American society. They don’t have to actually present concrete evidence that discrimination exists, they just conjure up a statistical disparity and label it a social injustice.

That tactic is on display in a new report published by the US2010 project, “Separate and Unequal: The Neighborhood Gap for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in Metropolitan America.” The study finds that, even adjusted for income, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than whites and Asians.

Writes author John R. Logan, a Brown University professor:

“With only one exception (the most affluent Asians), minorities at every income level live in poorer neighborhoods than do whites with comparable incomes. Disparities are greatest for the lowest-income minorities, and they are much sharper for blacks and Hispanics than for Asians. Affluent blacks and Hispanics live in poorer neighborhoods than whites with working-class incomes. There is considerable variation in these patterns across metropolitan regions. But in the 50 metros with the largest black populations, there [are] only two metros where affluent blacks live in neighborhoods that are less poor than those of the average white.”

Those, presumably, are the facts. I accept them at face value. What I do not accept is the conclusion drawn from those facts. Going on to argue that poorer neighborhoods tend to have fewer and less desirable amenities than wealthier neighborhoods, Mr. Logan implies that the affluent minorities who live in poor neighborhoods are thereby worse off. He obliquely invokes malign influences to explain the disparity:

“The low incomes of blacks are not the main source of either residential segregation or disparities in the resources of the neighborhoods where they live. A central new finding is that blacks’ neighborhoods are separate and unequal not because blacks cannot afford homes in better neighborhoods, but because even when they achieve higher incomes, they are unable to translate these into residential mobility.”

Here are the worst weasel words: “unable to translate these [higher incomes] into residential mobility.” Mr. Logan doesn’t come right out and say that blacks are victims of racial discrimination, but he implies it. What other explanation could there be? To twist a turn of phrase from the “Saturday Night Live” church lady, “Could it be … racism?”

What Mr. Logan fails to consider is the possibility that some affluent blacks and Hispanics are unwilling - not unable - to move to wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. Is it possible that blacks prefer to live in their old neighborhoods because they prefer the black cultural traits of their neighbors over the cultural traits of white people? Could blacks prefer to attend predominantly black churches? Could they prefer to patronize restaurants that serve soul food, hair stylists who specialize in braiding blacks’ hair and shops that cater to blacks’ tastes in clothing? Is it conceivable that blacks prefer to live near family and friends rather than move to white neighborhoods where they don’t know anyone? In sum, is it possible that racial segregation in American today is overwhelmingly voluntary?

Let’s apply Mr. Logan’s logic to his own institution of higher learning at Brown, an Ivy League university that recruits students nationally. Blacks constitute only 5.8 percent of Brown’s student body, according to Black Enterprise magazine, even though blacks account for 12.6 percent of the U.S. population. Clearly, blacks are underrepresented at Brown. By Mr. Logan’s logic, Brown is a prime example of the “separate and unequal” status of blacks in higher education. The “disparity” must reflect the “inability” to blacks to break into the bastions of progressive white privilege.

Alternatively, let’s play a mental exercise. Let’s imagine that Mr. Logan’s results had shown that affluent blacks had moved into affluent white neighborhoods instead of staying in the ‘hood. Would he have stressed the geographic mobility of blacks in American society? Or would he have focused on the fact that the out-migration of affluent blacks rendered poor black neighborhoods even more isolated and poorer than ever, thus highlighting their continued segregation and lack of opportunity? Just a hunch, but I’m betting he would have gone with the interpretation that stresses blacks’ victimhood. It’s what I call the “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” school of thought that predictably extracts from any body of evidence the data that supports the grand narrative of social injustice over data that might undermine it.

If social injustice did not exist, the progressive worldview would have to invent it. That’s why you can never take studies like this one at face value.

James A. Bacon is the author of “Boomergeddon” and publisher of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog at baconsrebellion.com.

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